This story is about AMU Alumni who is serving in the Judge Advocate General Branch of the Indian Army and is presently holding the Rank of Major. The name and other details of the author cannot be disclosed due to security reasons.
I hail from a small town located in the middle of hills in the northern part of the country. In 2004, after completing my basic education in Urdu Medium from the Govt Higher Secondary School (Boys) of my native town, I applied in AMU for admission in Class XI. I always believe that getting admission in AMU was the turning point of my life and also that whatever I am today and whatever I have achieved in my life is because of that only.
I completed my 10+2 in PCB from Senior Secondary School, AMU in 2006, and thereafter, got admission in the Faculty of Law, AMU for B.A. LL.B (Hons).
My Stay at AMU
During my stay at AMU for my B.A. LL.B (Hons) course, I was exposed to a new and different environment. Since it was a shift from Science to Humanities stream, I faced a bit of difficulty in the beginning. However, soon I developed an interest in the subjects and before I could realise anything, History and Political Science had already become my favourite subjects.
In AMU, I kept myself focussed on studies and consistently performed satisfactorily. I was never a topper in my class but an average student and always scored average in my exams. The continuous assessment in the form of sessional, projects, assignments, tutorials, presentations, mid-terms, end-terms etc, the course structure, the highly competent and qualified faculty and the competitive environment of the Law Faculty helped me a great deal in preparing myself for the future. While at AMU, although the Law Faculty ranked in top five Law Colleges of India, I had doubts about my competitiveness with the students of renowned National Law Universities, however, it was only when I got opportunity to compete with the students of these universities in Debate competitions, Moot Court competitions and other literary and cultural competitive activities that I realised that having studied in AMU, I am no less in any manner from the students of any other Universities.
After completing my B.A. LL.B (Hons) in 2012, I got myself admitted in LL.M. Course in AMU itself. The idea behind this was that I will continue my education till the time I get any reasonable job and after completing my LL.M., I would go to practice law at the Bar. In the meantime, I would continue to apply for Government jobs.
My Approach to Jobs
As far as job was concerned, I had adopted the following approach:-
(a) That I will apply only for Gazetted Services/Posts. For this, I had shortlisted the services like Central Civil Services, State Civil Services, State Judicial Services, Armed Forces including Army, Navy and Air Force, UPSC Assistant Commandant and other similar services.
(b) That I will not waste my time in going after a single service and will apply for different services/opportunities as they come.
(c) That I will not apply for all the services in succession but will keep gap of at least four to six months between two applications/notifications so that I get time to prepare for whatever exam or service I would apply.
(d) That for whatever post I would apply, I will give it my best in the preparation and would not appear in the exam without preparation.
(e) That I will appear in each exam with the aim of qualifying it and that even if I fail in the exam, I will gain the real time experience of that particular exam which would be helpful in future.
My Experience of Job Applications and Competitive Exams
(a) State Services Combined Competitive Exam
In the month of Mar-Apr 2012, while I was in the last semester of my B.A. LL.B (Hons) course, notification for my native State’s Combined Competitive Services was published to which I applied. The vacancies were very few (just 65) but riding high on my confidence, I decided to give it all and appear in the exam with full preparation. The said exam, like most other exams, is conducted in three stages viz Preliminary Examination, Mains Examination and Interview. Since I was applying for the said Service for the first time, I had no previous experience or preparation and, therefore, I decided to take the said exam step by step. Since there was not much time left in the exam which was scheduled less than two months from the date on which my final semester exams got over, I decided that first I will concentrate on the Preliminary Examination only and will prepare for the Mains Examination after qualifying the Preliminary Examination. Likewise, the same approach for the interview was planned. In the Preliminary Examination held in Aug 2012, I scored really well in my Law paper (108 correct answers out of 120 questions) and reasonably well in General Studies paper (more than 80 correct answers out of 120 questions) and, thus, qualified for the Mains Examination. However, due to some technical clause in the SRO relating to the State Services Combined Competitive Exams, my Application Form for the Mains Examination was rejected being ineligible.
(b) Judge Advocate General Entry
After the State Services Combined Competitive Exam, the next opportunity for me came in the month of Nov 2012 while I was appearing in the first semester examination of LL.M. course in AMU. I applied for the Judge Advocate General Entry in the Indian Army and qualified the same in Mar 2013. I am sharing the details of the same in subsequent paragraphs. Since then, I have never felt the need of applying for any other service/notification and, therefore, have not applied.
Judge Advocate General Entry in Indian Army
There are a lot of ways/entries by which a person can get commissioned in the Indian Army as an Officer e.g., NDA Entry, University Entry Scheme, Technical Graduate Course etc. after 10+2 and CDS Entry, NCC Entry, JAG Entry, Technical and Non-Technical Entries, Army Education Corps Entry etc. after Graduation/Post-Graduation.
I was primarily eligible for two entries in the Army viz the Non-Technical Entry through CDS Examination conducted by the UPSC and the JAG Entry. The reason for me to opt for JAG entry was firstly that it was the opportunity that presented itself to me before the CDS Examination, secondly, that I would any day prefer to serve the Organisation with my strength i.e. Law rather than in a field which would have no connection with Law and, thirdly, that I had more chance of getting selected in JAG Entry being open only to Law Graduates than the CDS Examination which was open to all graduates.
JAG Entry Selection Process consists of three stages which are:-
(a) Short-listing of Candidates ;
(b) Service Selection Board ; and
(c) Medical Examination.
As far as Short-listing of Candidates is concerned, it is done on the basis of the percentage of marks obtained by applicants in their qualifying examination. Although the basic eligibility is 55 percent marks in B.A. LL.B./LL.B./LL.M., the cut off merit remains a little higher. Therefore, my advice to the aspiring students is to study well in their Law Graduation Course and obtain good marks to not only be eligible for the entry but also to get short-listed in cut off merit.
Service Selection Board (SSB)
Service Selection Board aka SSB is a five day thorough process which every person who aspires to become an officer in the Armed Forces has to go through. It is a process well tested and established over a period of time to test the aspiring candidates for Officer Like Qualities (OLQs). OLQs are the qualities which a person must possess in order to hold the responsible position as an officer in the Armed Forces. Army is a profession of life and death, of duty and honour and of courage and sacrifice. In Army, men follow their leader even to the death provided that the leader has the qualities that are required to lead men in the face of enemy and death. Some examples of the OLQs are leadership, honesty, integrity, loyalty, initiative, positive attitude, resource management, man management, leading by example, ability to take decisions in tough situations, ability to perform under extreme pressure and stress to name a few. A complete list of the OLQs may be found on the internet.
The aim of the SSB is to test the OLQs in the aspiring candidates. For this purpose, the SSB comprises of a panel of assessors who are Officers in the Armed Forces and have their specialisation as Psychologist, Group Task Officer (GTO) and Interviewing Officer. Each of these officers tests the candidates for the same OLQs not by a single process but by three distinct mechanisms which are :-
(a) Psychological Tests.
The following tests are conducted by the Psychologist :-
(i) Filling up of Personal Information Questionnaire (PIQ) at the time of Reporting Form.
(ii) Intelligence Test (Basic).
(iii) Picture Perception and Description Test (PPDT).
(iv) Word Association test (WAT).
(v) Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT).
(vi) Situation Reaction Test (SRT).
(vii) Self Description Test (SDT).
(b) Group Tasks/Tests
The following tests are conducted by the GTO :-
(i) Group Discussion Test (GDT).
(ii) Military Planning Exercise (MPE).
(iv) Progressive Group Task (PGT).
(v) Inter-Group Obstacle Race aka Snake Race.
(vi) Half Group Task (HGT).
(vii) Command Task.
(viii) Final Group Task (FGT).
(ix) Individual Obstacles Task.
(c) Personal Interview
Personal Interview is conducted by the Interviewing Officer. The duration of the interview ranges from 35 mins to 01 hour and at times even longer. Interview is mainly based on the information provided by a candidate in the PIQ and therefore it is important to be honest and not bluff in filling up of the PIQ. In addition to the PIQ, the interview also covers the general intelligence and awareness of the candidates with respect to the current affairs and related topics.
You can easily find all the details about the OLQs, the SSB and also the tests that a candidate has to go through in an SSB over the period of five days in many books relating to the SSB, in innumerable articles on the internet specially the Google and in end number of videos on the YouTube.
My Preparation for the Exam
My preparation for the SSB consisted of the following :-
(a) Understanding the General Concept of SSB
I was very fortunate to have in my Faculty, Dr. SK Ehteshamuddin Ahmed as a teacher who had qualified SSB and was commissioned as an Officer in the Army in past. I straightaway walked to him and he not only clarified the concept of SSB to me but also guided me as to the expectations of the Board from the aspiring candidates. In addition, I also referred to a book titled “Cracking the SSB Code” by Arihant. You can refer to any book relating to SSB for this purpose.
(b) Psychological Tests and Group Tasks/Tests
Even though the above-mentioned book as well as Dr. Ehteshamuddin were extremely helpful in my preparation for the Psychological Tests, I also submitted a written application to the Residential Coaching Academy (RCA), AMU for providing specialised coaching for SSB. Lt Gen (Retd.) Zamir Uddin Shah, AVSM, SM, VSM, the then Vice Chancellor of AMU, who is an Army Veteran showed special interest in the same, and therefore, Col (Retd.) Jagroop Singh, also an Army Veteran was appointed by RCA for guiding the students aspiring to join the Armed Forces. Col Jagroop Singh further polished my preparation for Psychological Tests and Group Tasks/Tests. For the preparation of Group Discussion, I contacted Mr. Saad Hamid, Training and Placement Officer, AMU. He not only guided me but also gave me opportunity to practice the Group Discussion by allowing me to participate in various Mock Group Discussions at different places including the RCA and Department of Management Studies. Preparation of Group Discussion is very important for SSB as the same takes place at least four times during the course of SSB viz Picture Perception and Description Test (PPDT), Thematic Appreciation Test (TAT), Group Discussion Test (GDT) and Military Planning Exercise (MPE). In addition to Group Discussion, it is also very important to prepare for Lecturette by practicing public speaking skills and extempore. Because of the presentations in various project works as part of our course curriculum and participation in various co/extra-curricular activities during my graduation, I did not face much problem in this.
(c) Personal Interview
For the interview, I received tremendous help from Mr. Saad Hamid. In addition, I watched videos on the YouTube, attended various workshops on Group Discussion and Personal Interview (GD&PI) and also participated in Mock PIs.
My Memories of the SSB
To be honest, since the vacancies in JAG Entry are always very few (seven in my Course), I had prepared for, and appeared in, my first attempt of SSB in Mar 2013 only with the aim to gain experience of appearing in an SSB and had no hopes of getting through in my first attempt. However, on the final day, when we were waiting to hear the Chest Numbers of the selected candidates so that we could go back to the University, my chest number was called out along with two other selected candidates. It was a moment of sheer joy and happiness for me and tears rolled out of my eyes as I realised that God had given me so much beyond (and even without) my expectations. Probably, it was also because of the perception and notion in my mind that being a Muslim, I had the least of the chances of getting selected in Army amongst more than 350 Candidates.
Since, the vacancies were limited (only 07) and there were a total of 20 Recommendations by the SSB, the next step was to finish within first seven in the merit list which was something beyond my control and depended solely on God’s Will. However, my selection by the SSB despite no hopes gave me a hope to believe that God will help me in that too. And the same happened. When the final Merit List was issued, my name figured in the top seven and the other two candidates who were recommended along with me figured at Ser Nos 10 and 17 in the Merit List.
After going through the Final Merit List, I observed that there was one more Muslim Name in the Cut Off Merit List and he was placed first in the Order of Merit. On further enquiring about the same, I was able to find out that he was also from the Law Faculty of AMU. This goes without saying that it extended my happiness further. Rest all is history. Presently, in JAG Department of the Indian Army alone, more than ten alumni of the Law Faculty, AMU are serving on the ranks of Maj General, Brigadier, Colonel, Major and Captain and many have retired after serving in the past.
From my experience of Preparation for the exam, appearing in the exam, getting trained in the Training Academy and having served in the Organisation, I can draw following Conclusions :-
(a) That there is no discrimination in the Army on the basis of faith, religion, caste, region, social and educational background. Therefore, being a Muslim or being from AMU can never be an excuse for not appearing, or for failure in the exams for appointment in the Armed Forces. There is no reservation and the only thing that matters, and can get you through, is your merit and performance.
(b) That having studied in AMU does not make you disadvantageous in any manner vis-a-vis students of other top universities and you are as competent as any other student from any other university of the country and even the world for that matter. Please carry that confidence with you.
(c) That with detailed planning and thorough preparation, you can crack any exam. There is no dearth of opportunities and the educated and qualified people always make way for themselves through their hard work, positive approach and perseverance.
(d) That never give yourself a reason to believe that you cannot get through an exam in your first attempt. What is required is a positive attitude with hard work and perseverance in your preparation.
(e) It is no wrong to be afraid of failure as the fear of failure is something that pushes you to continuously work harder for success.
I hope that this little effort of mine through this write up will help in motivating you and in removing any negative perceptions from your mind. Avail whatever opportunities come your way. Prepare thoroughly for the exams and you will see that all the things will start falling in their respective places. There is no shortcut to success and no substitute to hard work.
All the very best. And, Be a Scholar Warrior. Join the Indian Army as an Officer.